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Breathing Expectation

The Choice – Death OR Life and Peace

I had a day! Well, actually, not just one day. The last few days, perhaps even weeks, have been tough. Mostly of my own ridiculous making by taking on too much, overthinking, and expecting myself to perform mostly perfectly.

The real problem is that I obviously can’t measure up to my own expectations and this generally results in, well, my not making the best life choices in a variety of areas. Enter today. Which actually started last night. I was angry by some perceived slights and the physical state in which I found my home after working all day. There is no doubt everyone in the household, including the dog, understood quickly this was not a good day for me. They all went their own ways and I attacked the kitchen and living room with fervor. Thank goodness! Cleaning is my best choice for exorcising dangerous thoughts. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually ever deal with the feelings. Which again brought me to this morning.

I don’t like to face myself when I’m not willing to admit I’m in a bad spot and completely resistant to making good choices. So I generally don’t. Instead, I put on my selfish cloak and dive in deeply with whatever I want in that moment with little regard to anyone or anything around me. I pulled that cloak tight today and unleashed an onslaught of selfishness that resulted in some very unfortunate results. Every time I do this and finish my “less than best choices,” I’m left with an empty, angry, emotional hangover. Which is where I was sitting this afternoon while feeling a tiny bit sorry for myself. Sometimes remorse comes quickly, other times it takes me awhile to confront myself and get to the “I’m sorry” that is so necessary for the relationships that mean so much to me.

I had kinda decided I wasn’t going to feel that bad about my behavior (which you’ll notice I did not describe for you) and I sat down and turned on some music. Funny what lyrics can do to a person. In this case, it was Jars of Clay singing Show You Love. I have never been really attached to that song, but some the words completely undid me today:

Speak

And say the words that no one else will ever say

Love

Love like the world is over in a day . . .

I’m gonna speak with words that have no form

I’m gonna give you what you never had before . . .

And you’re beautiful.

Bam! Just like that, Jesus reminds me that he loves me. As I am. In this moment. My selfish, sinful, not very sorry self. It took me 35 years to really believe and accept this. I have always operated under the thought process of “Jesus only loves me when I’m good.” Fortunately, a few different people have helped teach me to annihilate this thought and accept that God loves me the same today, yesterday, and forever. As he does you!

Which is great, great news! But what I want is to get over myself. To stop putting expectations on myself that are completely unrealistic and result in my getting angry with myself and everyone in my path when things don’t turn out the way I want them too. I also want the following pattern of poor choices and icky attitude to go away. What to do? In some reading this week, I came across the following verses:

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5 and 6)

The answer to my selfish problem is really simple. Get out of the flesh. In other words, stop competing with everybody else in the world to get what I want, stop being angry when I’m not getting my way, and focus my eyes, heart and attitude always on the One who loves me enough to speak with words that have no form and tells me I’m beautiful.

Forget death. I’ll take a big helping of life and peace.

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Why I Breathe

Breathing Expectation. Three years ago this month, I began and christened my blog using this title. The name was then and is now a reminder to myself to live in expectation of good things to come.

2013 was a truly difficult year for me and our family as a whole. The birthing of this blog was a result of that pain. Posting my writing became a tangible way for me to sustain myself through the hurt and confusion.

Writing those first words and (gasp) putting them out for public consumption is one of the greatest leaps of faith I have ever taken. I was terrified. But I had no other options really. In the midst of the emotional beating we were experiencing, I had to decide whether or not I was going to live my faith out loud. In a small step of spiritual obedience, I wrote my very first public blog And we Know, using Romans 8:28 as my anchor:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.

That verse became more than my anchor. It became my saving grace for navigating the remainder of 2013 and every day since. The transformation in the lives of our family–physical, spiritual, financial, emotional–is nothing short of miraculous. Where others intended to hurt, confuse, and destroy, God made peace, clarity, safety, and hope.

And He did it one step at a time. By showing us a little light every day. And–believe me–some days that light was hard to see. After all, you have to get down on your knees to see where the crack of light under the doorway leads. God faithfully showed us that we could not focus on the chaos around us; rather, we needed to keep our eyes on Him. To praise him, to thank (yes thank) Him, to trust Him. It is unquestionably the hardest thing we ever did. It is also unquestionably the best thing we ever did.

It still twists me up to think back to the 2+ years of hurt and uncertainty. But God often shows us where we are going by where we have been. He remained faithful through everything. That is not only what He does but Who He Is. The same yesterday, today, and forever. So much so that I intend to breathe expectation for the rest of my days.

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To My Oldest Son

What a ride we’ve had so far. Your recent high school graduation prompts me to look back on what we’ve shared so far and it can only be called amazing. You have taught me far more than you know and it is my turn to say thank you.

You won’t remember the winter and spring of 1997 when I had the first ultrasound of my pregnancy with you and a black spot on your brain was discovered. You won’t remember the tissue test the two of us underwent and the doctor’s resulting recommendation to abort you. I’ver never told you that I regret that test every day of my life. Your dad and I are convinced something we were told was so simple and necessary was actually invasive and traumatizing to both of us. And completely unnecessary.

You do know, of course, that thankfully and prayerfully we ignored that doctor’s advice. As a result, you stand before us today a man of health and integrity and your body houses the largest heart that anyone could ever imagine.

Early years with you were tough. You rarely slept. And I mean that literally. The first 3 1/2 years of your life, while precious, are somewhat of a fog to all of us. And you struggled with some health issues that I again can’t help but wonder if they tied into that damned tissue test! (Seriously, I’m getting over that . . . )

I remember the first day you went to “Moose School.” You stood in the living room with your backpack strapped to your back on your 4th birthday, watching the planes fly into the World Trade Center. You were devastated by what was unfolding on TV but so excited about your first day of school and celebrating your birthday. You have lived every day of your life since that fateful day in the same way–caring beyond measure what is happening to others while looking forward to what every day brings.

You had some struggles in school, academically and socially. And I worried. A little. Until your wise fifth grade teacher told me how much you were liked by everyone and that the heart you show every day makes you “golden.” She was right then and she is right now. And as I learned to let go of you (and you are the hardest one for me to release my grip), you began to flourish, to find your own way, and eventually to establish close friendships with people I couldn’t be happier to call your best friends.

You’re ready to take your next steps. College. And we’ve had lots of talks about what you are most comfortable with and what makes the most sense. Just remember, life doesn’t always make sense. The hard, early days you spent in the womb and adjusting to life after birth and the health issues you experienced off and on in your first decade of life were not a foreshadowing of your future. Rather they provided with you with development of strength, resilience, and love to grow into the man you are today.

And I could not be more proud of you. You love like no one else I know. You give of your time, talents, and money like no other. Your thoughtfulness and compassion are rare commodities in this “me first” world. You, son, are my treasure.

 

Connor Prom 2016

Kissing Anxiety Goodbye

Gratitude is the antidote to anxiety – Alli Worthington

Yes. That.

A-n-x-i-e-t-y: An abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear over an impending or anticipated ill.

Who wants to have that? Not me. And yet I did. Do. A couple of weeks ago I realized I have been living in an ongoing state of anxiety for months. Some of it I can trace back to a heavy workload and a few twists in the road of life that have taken me by surprise. But the state of extreme anxiety in which I found myself clearly has a lot more buried beneath the surface. Basically, I’ve been wrapped in a chokehold of ever-increasing destructive thought patterns. A self-imposed prison of sorts.

One thing I had immediate conrol over is recognizing that a medication I have been on for several months could be the culprit inducing some of these false feelings. For better or worse and without consulting a medical professional (something I don’t advocate), I went off the pills cold turkey. I felt relief within a couple of days. But not complete relief. And that was a total downer because it meant I needed to face myself. Again. That’s when I went searching for the rest of the problem.

Notice the tail end of the anxiety definition above: “impending or anticipated ill.” I have no such things. I have no reason to believe there is impending or anticipated trouble of any kind and yet I have been living as though I am one tiptoe away from disaster. As I examined these tentacles of dread, I discovered they aren’t carrying truth. Just anxiety. For the sake of anxiety. And to keep me mentally and emotionally tangled up so as not to live in peace.

How to reset myself? I wrestled with that for a little bit. Then I came face to face with the same truth I’ve encountered many times. The truth I don’t like to admit. I have a problem trusting God. I know and believe His words and promises, but I continue to have trouble flat out trusting Him. Even though He has seen us through some real disasters. Time and again. Faithfully. Do I really think that one more misstep on my part is going to put me so far out of His reach that He won’t save me again? I really don’t. Yet I have been living like that is exactly what I believe. Sad. Simply sad. And unnecessary. I know better.

Enter Alli Worthington’s wise words above: Gratitude is the antidote to anxiety. So true. Again, so simple. When I look back over the last several years, there are times of crisis where I have absolutely thrived and seasons of plenty where I have choked on fear. The difference is in the approach. When my eyes are off myself and I am giving thanks and praise to the one who deserves every bit of it, life is navigable and joyful. Hopeful and peaceful.

After months of unfounded fear and a few tears, I am again choosing gratitude. It’s only been a day but that nasty elephant on my chest is gone. And my soul is quietly trusting.

Peace I leave with you.

My peace I give to you.

I do not give to you as the world gives [thank God, emphasis mine].

Your heart must not be troubled or fearful. John 14:27 (HCSB)

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I Think I Love You

Cold, sick, tired of spring not having sprung. Been a tough couple of weeks for me.

The entire family has been down and out sick, sick, sick. Couple that with the cold winds and the brown ground that shows through when the snow stops for enough days in a row, and you have a recipe for immediate depression.

I am a personality that falls easily into complaint, irritation, frustration, and the blahs. When illness and bleakness carry on for days on end, it gets pretty hard for a girl like me to show any spunk.

Sometimes the only way to get better, to look forward, is to fall back. Back to the ’70s. I am fortunate and blessed that my childhood years were wonderful. Fun, safe, and free spirited. I won’t pretend there weren’t difficult family moments, anger and and occasional brokenheartedness, but that’s a blog for another day (maybe).

When I turn back the clock of time in my head, the memories are always accompanied by a musical soundtrack. Fun ’70s music. Music that I listened to on the transistor radio both at the beach and by my beside, blasting from the car stereo (well, AM only) while my dad or brother did the backyard car repair stuff, and on the living room stereo while my sister and I played games and chatted endlessly.

Songs that run through my head without any prompting include Dreamweaver, Silly Love Longs, Oh What a Night, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, If You Leave Me Now, Beach Baby, Benny and the Jets, and Chevy Van. You get the picture I’m sure. Although I’d be remiss not to share that sometimes even the Captain and Tenille and Tony Orlando and Dawn creep into the reminiscing. And, of course, the ’70s musical repertoire would not be complete without selections by the Partridge Family. Not only are the songs nostalgically uplifting, but they remind me of some pretty great ’70s TV shows–Happy Days, Brady Bunch, and Welcome Back, Kotter leading the pack.

I know better than to think the past is the only good time of my life. It’s all been good in its own way with more. But sometimes I need that little boost to remember. After I take even 5 minutes to think back to these happy days of my own, I’m smiling. And now I have the vision to see that big, fat robin in the front yard. A sure sign of spring and better days to come.220px-The_Partridge_Family_Album

 

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 (NIV)

 

 

 

Blogging, An Unexpected Spiritual Art

I started blogging in August of 2013 as a response to a difficult life situation. The point was not to dwell or get lost in the difficulty but rather to remember to be grateful for life and all the marvelous things that still held true.

I blogged almost every day for the remainder of that year, using my words to count my blessings. Counting blessings sounds so cliche, yet is so true when one considers the many things for which to be thankful and so important to a truly healthy life and perspective.

The tough season and the catharsis of public writing changed me in ways I did not foresee. In some ways, I am quieter, more thoughtful, and definitely more careful. Not bad qualities. Just different. And sometimes they don’t feel like they fit my skin. But skin adapts to the shape of the body eventually and I am more comfortable with myself today.

The greatest good of that season and today is the spiritual shaping that is taking place. Some days the change happens through a gentle rub. Other days have felt like a chisel against hard clay. But the beauty that comes forth is worth the touch, no matter the depth of the pressure applied.

The truth is, Christ has changed me. Graciously and mercifully he has changed me into someone who looks for the good. Some days I don’t feel like looking. Other days it’s harder to find things for which to give thanks. Those are often the best days because they require some extra effort. And that is the difference. I am making the effort.

Some of you shake your head about what I believe or my words make you uncomfortable. Or you misunderstand what I’ve written and I have to work through my own discomfort of sorting out what I could have said better or wondering if writing is worth my time, even when I know it is.

As I close out 2015, what I know for sure is that I am meant to write. Whether my blog gets forty or zero views in a day. Whether anybody believes in what I have to say. Whether or not you find yourself nodding along quietly. My words have been my stepping stone from darkness to light and a reminder to trust in Jesus every single day.

May you find your hope in 2016-Cindy

  
PS: To all of you out there who have continually encouraged me – Thank you!

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 310 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Season of Between

Christmas is over and we are in the gap until the New Year. I call this time The Season of Between. It seems this week is always a period of “getting over” and “gearing up.” I’m getting over the parts of the past year that I didn’t like. A mixture of things that happened that I couldn’t control but also the things I could. And wish I hadn’t. You know, regrets for the things I selfishly orchestrated that didn’t turn out very well. And my attitude. Every year I have a hangover from the attitude I imposed over the last year. This year impatience hangs over the days of 2015. 

I won’t wallow in the regret. It’s unfortunate the time I wasted being irritated because I was impatient, but I’m not staying there. Don’t forget that in this Between, I am also gearing up for the new year and new opportunities. 

In reflecting on 2015 and preparing for 2016, I have determined I need to intentionally and earnestly surrender:

  • Selfishness (that’s #1 on my list for many years running and despite trying to shepherd 4 children I still seem to have plenty of time for self-engaging negative behaviors).
  • Irritation – It is after all a choice to be irritated. The big problem is I stay there. I’m not describing a momentary irritation. This is the kind that holds on all day. You know, when I let my entire day (and everyone else’s) be ruined because someone wore my indoor Crocs out in the dirt. (I know. I know they are easily washable. That’s what I’m talking about–this attitude that takes on a life of its own because I let it get out of control.)
  • Impatience with myself and others because it ultimately leads to bullet 2.
  • Judgment, pride, and arrogance – These get one bullet because my pride won’t allow the list to get too long. 😊 

This may look like a short list but believe me, there are some heavy internal hitters in there. Which means there is only one place to take them. The place where everything has to ultimately get surrendered or it isn’t really gone. The feet of Jesus. Who I was just reminded this week came to seek and save the lost. And boy do I get lost–mostly in myself. Thankfully, he lets me start over. Every year. Every day. Every moment.

  

A New Thankfulness

You are 15. This is the first hunting season you have been allowed in the woods by yourself. You know this is because you have shown your parents you are responsible, careful, resourceful, and have a respect for firearms. You are pleased that you are one step closer to manhood.

For the past 3 weeks, your buddies at school have either shot a deer or talked about the many, many deer they have seen. You have seen none. Except after dark when hunting is over. You believe the animals are taunting you.

It is the last day of hunting season. Your mom drops you off at your grandparents and you begin the walk out to “the big stand.” It’s cold, but you are prepared in your military long underwear, extra layers of warmth and, of course, blaze orange outerwear. You like walking in the woods. You enjoy the silence that you hope will be interrupted by the sound of a buck snorting or a doe tiptoeing her way through the dry leaves.

You think nothing of it when you come to the creek with the beaver dam. You have crossed dozens of uneventful times before. You can see the first stepping stone just below the water and you hop onto it. You can’t see the second or third or additional rocks, but you know they are there because you have done this before. So you take your next step. And that’s when you discover there either is no second stone or you have misjudged its location and you are in t-r-o-u-b-l-e.

Your feet swipe out from under you toward the sky, but like any good hunter you have the presence of mind to throw your rifle on the creek bank before the lower two-thirds of your body goes underwater. You freeze. Not quite literally, but the cold water sucks the possibility of moving out of you. But you have to move, so you make yourself. You slowly pull yourself out of the water.

Suddenly, 26 degrees doesn’t feel very temperate any more. Your feet feel like a thousand knives are stabbing up through their soles all the way to your armpits. You know you have to move, but you aren’t sure you can. You fire 3 shots into the air–a known signal for help. Then you remember no one you know is in the woods with you, but you hope someone else notices or that your mom and grandparents can hear the 3 shots in the house. After a few  minutes you realize that no one is coming. You get up, shoulder your gun (of course), and try to start walking. But you can’t. Your boots are too heavy.

Somehow your frozen fingers manage to untie your cold, heavy boots, and you pull your sopping wet feet out of them. You have no choice but to start running. And so you do. In wet socks, pants, and jacket you run toward the house. Without the boot protection, the thousand knives in your feet are increasing. Every step drives another stick, another rock, or simply another piece of lumpy ground into your cold, cold feet.

Just as you wonder if you can make it all the way, you finally see the house. It’s been only 1/2 a mile or more but feels like you have run a nightmare marathon. You fling open the door, sit down on the bench, and unwanted tears drop from your eyes. Your mom asks what is wrong, but you can’t answer because you don’t have any breath or feeling left in your body. You can tell by her eyes that she thinks you have shot someone or that you yourself have been shot. You answer only, “I can’t feel my feet or legs.” This time when she asks if something happened with the gun, you are able to speak and say, “No I fell into the creek.” You can see she is relieved and she immediately enters into “mom mode” by turning on grandma’s shower and telling you to take off your wet things.

Later when you are warm and dry, she can see you are not yourself. When she asks you what is wrong, you tell her that you are only 15, you don’t even  have your permit yet, and you could have died if things had turned out differently.

This is what happened at our house today. Cherished Middle Son went routinely into the woods and struggled to come out. We talked about how when bad things happen we have an opportunity to go deeper into our thankfulness. I could see the wheels ticking behind his eyeballs as he counted his blessings. Which I’m sure today includes dry socks. I’m pretty certain he has never had reason to be thankful for socks before.

He is also thankful he ran Cross Country this year. At the time, it was a hard decision to decide to run long distance instead of playing football. Today he is glad he did and credits his ability to make his freezing run in wet socks to his cross country training. He says he will thank his coach tomorrow.

As for me, I am so grateful that he knew what to do. I could not care less if his weapon hadn’t made it home today, although it did–safe and dry in fact. I don’t care that his soggy boots are still out by the beaver dam and I don’t care if they never come home. I wonder whether the removal of them was in fact the best course of action, but since he made it back to safety, I’m going with his decision to take them off as the right thing.

I share this story with you because I for one take the people in my life way too much for granted. Had Middle Son not made it back to the house at full dark, I am confident he would have been found, but I am not certain he wouldn’t have suffered frostbite or possibly worse.

You could question why a good God lets bad things happen, but I’d rather focus on the fact that Middle Son was in God’s hands today as he is every day and that provision for his well-being and safety was made ahead of time. Because he was prepared and protected, we have a happy ending.

Every Thanksgiving I reflect on my gratefulness for people, things, and circumstances. This year, the depth of feeling for the people in  my life definitely goes deeper.

buck

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